Australia’s Islamic community, for reasons beyond its control, is under attack yet again. What happened on that fateful day of September 11 was not the act of Australia’s Islamic community nor were the two bombings at the Boston Marathon, the killing of 31 civilians in China’s western Xinjiang’s region and the violent acts of Martin Bryant and Anders Breivik.
For that matter, the Islamic community is not responsible for what the Islamic State stands for. Australians of Islamic faith are peaceful people in the same way that Australians of Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Jewish and other faiths, including those of no faith, are peaceful. Australians of all persuasions want a peaceful and secure Australia.
Migrants travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to come to this great land to live in peace and to provide for their children a happy and safe future. We must not blame them for the deeds of others. We must work with them rather than blame them, speak to them, consult with them, respect them, and in this way we will win them onside.
Radicalised Australians sought to join the fight against the Baathist government and they were allowed to leave unchecked, some would argue encouraged to go. The research paper written in December 2013 by Edwin Bakker, Christopher Paulussen and Eva Entenmann for the International Centre for Counter Terrorism titled “Dealing with European Foreign Fighters in Syria: Governance Challenges and Legal Implications”, notes that the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reported that between 140 and 600 Europeans were estimated to have gone to Syria since early 2011. In the first half of 2012, 700 to 1,400 fighters had entered Syria and by winter of 2013 most experts were estimating there were between 1,100 and 1,700 individuals from Europe.
Others entered Syria to fight on the side of the government and some were sponsored by Iran, ( Others) Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other regional players. The number of foreign fighters with a jihadist agenda participating in the Syrian civil war increased exponentially and alarm bells began to sound for policymakers, as they would have for our own Government. Our governments would have known and ought to have known of the probability that returned Australian fighters, hardened and exposed to war, would pose a potential threat to Australia’s national security.
The blame and responsibility for the radicalisation of some therefore cannot lie with Australia’s Muslim community. Our governments failed to take the necessary proactive measures prior to the radicalisation of a few of our citizens and the potential realisation of danger. Furthermore, the anti-terror laws under which this Government could have acted were already in place. People should not blame the Islamic community for what is currently unfolding.
Key representative organisations are doing their best and have spoken out. The Australian National Imams Council believes that all citizens have a vested interest in the ongoing safety and security of the country. The president of Muslims Australia, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, noted that as law abiding citizens Muslims are conscious of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the safety and security of Australia.
Darulfatwa Australia noted that Darulfatwa’s constitution rests on actively rejecting all forms of extremism, especially those who unlawfully use the name of Islam. The Lebanese Muslim Association notes that Australian Muslims are as much concerned as non-Muslims, if not more, for the security and safety of our country. Almabarat Australia notes that all Australians from all different religions, multicultural backgrounds and origins must work to protect Australia from harm. Finally, in addressing a community fundraiser in support of the Iraqi Chaldeans, a Christian community, Sheikh Azam of the Rahma Association of Australia Inc. condemned the terrible acts of terror and stood in solidarity with all innocent people in Iraq.
The rotten politics of racial or religious divide must stop. All Australians are on “team Australia” and it should not be a “them” and “us” mentality with a good guys and bad guys division. Playing to the polls on the back of your community’s fears is a shameful act. I condemn the labelling. To me those who play the race card are as abhorrent as those who play the religious divide. I respect all faiths. I encourage all people to practise their religion in peace and security and I condemn those who politicise religion and speak of sectarianism such as Catholic versus Orthodox or Sunni versus Shia. It is abhorrent. For a harmonious Australia that must stop now.